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neurological dryer lint

dirty deeds... and the dunderchief


a faulty camera in our minds

lots of discussion has been generated everywhere on the church thing. very cool. although re-reading much of it, i think i really misconstrued my original point - even back at vandelay on sunday. i wasn't so much looking for a "three easy steps to fix my church experience" discussion. so i thought i would keep it going with what was really going through my head. which was, is the traditional "church service" really for everyone?

i don't think that church is less "impactful" for me lately because i'm "doing it wrong" (man i loves me some quotes today). i guess the unspoken / should-have-been-spoken question was, why is your average american church service set up the way it is (some worship, some communion, some offerings, some prayer, some messages or sermons, some hand-shaking)? do we do it that way, almost to a tee in nearly every church i've ever been to, because that's how it's always been done? is it because it's what we as a culture are used to? is it because it's the lowest common denominator, has the most likely chance to appeal to everyone?

perhaps we've almagamated a program out of examples of stuff that goes on during gatherings of people that worship God. nehemiah 8 has a sweet description of the group that met during the rebuilding of Jerusalem, meeting, listening to someone read from the book of the law. acts also has an account of a group of Jesus' followers shortly after the resurrection. maybe we've assembled a lot of it from there?

this is not a critique of any particular service - more just a curiousity. in perspective, i have a very limited set of experiences with church - a few years, having been to maybe a dozen different places, having regularly attended three of them, so my view is very narrow. they all seem to be very presentation-ish - people get up front, talk about things, lead some songs, explain things, give announcements. again - nothing wrong with that, if you're into it.

but of late i think i've started to feell differently about the presentation-ish atmosphere. i enjoy sitting around, sharing, conversing, listening sometimes and talking other times. i don't mind large numbers of people. i'm also ok with smaller numbers. but the whole thing feels like i'm watching a TV show. you'd think i would love that, with as much TV as i watch :) but when worshiping, learning about Jesus, etc. in that fashion i prefer things to be more interactive.

while i'm sure this sounds very strange, and i know i'm in the vast, vast minority on this, i just get curious about whether or not anyone else has thought of this and maybe wondered what a service would look like for people wired like this.

i'm very used to being told that the fault is in my expectations, my preferences, and not with how anyone does anything. i should change, take a more active role there, be more friendly, listen and concentrate more during worship, etc. and i'll grow to like it better. maybe. it hasn't worked yet. maybe i'm doing it wrong. and heck, if i was very close to God, as personal and deep with him as i'd like to be, i could probably enjoy church in a sewer or a cornfield while a rabbit chews on my leg.

maybe there is no fault here, though. maybe it's just preference, and i don't enjoy that setup any more than i enjoy black olives (bragg, how can you eat those on everything?). i could probably force myself to learn to like black olives, or i could just eat sweet pickles instead, which i do enjoy.

this is very much about me and what i want, and i realize that my ultra-selfish nature will spawn thoughts like this. maybe i should think more about what God wants - although it could be that he wants me to be in an atmosphere that fosters more appreciation for him. he could also want me to shut my trap and learn to enjoy where he has put me. maybe he and i can have some more conversations about this and i'll realize that, like simon said, it's much more simple than i had thought before.

switching gears... i don't think i'll be able to drive down to athens, GA next wednesday, which means i will be missing megaband, a group of musicians putting on a hybrid concert where they play the soundtrack to the second-best-scored title in gaming history, Mega Man II, while someone plays through it on screens in the background. added effect and whatnot. these guys tore it up through Contra a while back and apparently it was horn-worthy (\m/).

i've been caught up in death cab for cutie's plans album. melodically it is beautiful, like songs you sing quietly to someone you really care about. it has some very sad and very hurt undertones, as if the band is a bunch of wounded puppies. maybe it's just my interpretation. they try a few times to be punchy and fun, and it mostly works, but i keep coming back to these tracks that just echo a melancholy hopelessness (i will follow you into the dark, brothers on a hotel bed)and it's hard not to let it be infectious. i do want to check out their older stuff again, though - i absolutely love the production and the way these guys write.


for this post

Blogger Simon Says:

Seriously! My first answer before I think too much about it is that if you're worried about today's church being misdirected and what not, or not for everyone...I'd say take a more active role in your church, make suggestions to them. It's kinda like the govment, you have to make your word heard...just some thoughts...

Blogger Justin Hall Says:

see, i really don't think it's "misdirected" at all. i can see how well it works for so many people. i don't think they're doing anything wrong. the program, the setup, etc. might just not appeal to everyone. am i making any sense at all?

Blogger Bragg Says:

Man, F*** that! You are an individual. You are unique. You are created with a specific purpose, laced with specific traits, designed by a Being who is creative enough to write a genome and funny enough to create a fart.

If God wants you to experience Him in the same ways as everyone else, He would probably have tanked this whole humanity thing a long time ago. I mean, how many times can you play through Mega Man before you get bored? (I know that you can play through that game a lot without being bored, but seriously, how many times can you play it considering your attention span?)

You want worship at a new level? Then create worship at a new level. Stop singing with everyone else? Worship isn't about singing. It's about something unique between you and your creator. It's a way of saying thanks. Next time you're in church and worshiping, draw a picture. You were, and most likely still are, a great artist. Drawing a picture is a way of honoring God if it's a picture that brings you and Him joy. Hell I would even say if it brings you joy it's honoring to Him. If you want church at a new level, create church at a new level. Don't go to a building if you don't connect with God. Go to a park and worship God by journaling, praying with your wife, tossing a ball back and forth with your kid (I know you aren't there, but one day you will). I'd be damn willing to argue that eating a box of girl scout cookies instead of going to a building on sunday morning is acceptable.

It all depends on the motives. Listen to your heart and not the judgement of the people who are still placing God in that "box".

Are you doing something wrong? I doubt it. Trying to fit the mold, however, would most likely cause a lot of frustration. You can't be like everyone else. Frankly, who the hell would want to try?

Blogger Bragg Says:

...one more thing. Black Olives are the shiznite! Fear the olives!!!! Being Italian and all, you should be about them as well considering the entirety of the cuisine is based upon the fruit or at least its oil.

Blogger ceen_marie Says:

Justin, I've been blog-stalking you and Brian Callahan--but only because I am so interested in what other people are thinking with 'the church thing'. I knew I could not be the only person going through all this stuff in my mind. Maybe the vast minority isn't so vast(ha ha) after all? I know that you've gotta have an extremely committed group of people to make it work outside the mainstrean institutional church, who aren't afraid of being really real with one another. As for the details, let me know your thoughts. I'm wanting to get an understanding here. Maybe there could be something with rabbits and sewers....?

Blogger Justin Hall Says:

i don't know, i'm not trying to dream up something new, mainly because i'm too lazy to start my own thing. heh. church for lazy people. i bet that would be seriously inspiring.

i really think i have no idea how to worship. i know how to compliment God on things, how to enjoy being with him, so maybe that's it, but i don't think i've ever felt really passionate in the process. the way my heart knows i'm supposed to feel during that experience. or maybe i did at one point and i've forgotten. but i really want to find out what it feels like again; i think i need to find out, whatever it takes. a long and drawn out search for a deep connection with God by a very lazy and unmotivated person. sweet action!

steve: i have played through Mega Man III more times than i could ever possibly count.

colleen: maybe we could use an otter? i hear they are filled with the Holy Spirit.

Blogger Bragg Says:

...but if that were the only game you could EVER play again?

Blogger Justin Hall Says:

hmm, good question. i can already play through it without losing a life, it's not really challenging any more. if i had to pick a title that would be all i could ever play for the rest of my life...

probably Zelda: Ocarina Of Time. it's deep and rich enough to never really get old.

Blogger mr. e Says:

Is the traditional church service for everyone? No. In fact, it’s designed to appeal to the most people, so I doubt any of it is completely for everyone. If anything, the Bible shows that it’s all about what God wants, and not us. So the big question is what does God want? A good guess would be to tell others about him. I think how you equip yourself for this is up to you. I hate to add to the many questions already floating around, but what’s your goal in going to church? Not what should everyone’s goal be, but what’s yours?

BTW, great conversation. I’ve also been thinking about this a lot recently too, so it’s been really interesting.

Blogger Rob Says:

thank you justin on the LoZ:OOT reference.

Blogger Nickolini Says:

The times I remember feeling closest to God and a real sense of worship, are the times I felt part of a community....a community that is focused on God. I think that is why many of you guys talk about how great YL leadership meeting are. Specific times I remember are Sunday night worship services at my college. Also back in '99 I did a semester program at Focus on the Family. 40 college students spent the majority of their time together, trying to be close to God. I don't think I have ever felt closer relationships, both with God and with friends. What I have learned is that this desire to be part of something bigger, something more important, is a small reflection of what we will experience in heaven. Only there will we truly experience community in its truest form. We are longing for that here on earth, and the church is a meager attempt at securing that here and now. I think this may be one of the reasons we have so many churches. It makes perfect sense for a group of friends to want to live in community with God and each other. So they form a church. There is nothing wrong with this. I think for me the Vineyard (nothing against the Vineyard, just an example) is not satisfying to me. I don't feel a part of a community there (which is why they have small groups). So Justin....I'm not saying form your own church (but if you do I'd be there), and I'm not saying to give up on your search for worship and community, but I do think that it is perfectly natural for us not to be satisfied by anything we will find here on earth. Hey, maybe we can start a Vandalay church and meet together on Sunday morning instead of splitting apart and heading to our various churches all over town. Maybe that makes a little sense?

Blogger Justin Hall Says:

ed: you said "If anything, the Bible shows that it’s all about what God wants, and not us. So the big question is what does God want? A good guess would be to tell others about him."

"What does God want from us?" seems to be way too loaded a question to be answered simply in one sentence. reducing it simply to 'tell others about him' misses a whole lot of stuff. church should be more than a cattle farm where we herd people in as evil pagans and turn them into nice Christians. i know that's not what you're saying, i've just gotten that impression from some places.

people getting introduced to Jesus is important. when i ask myself what God wants out of me at church, i get more than that, though. i want to connect with him there, too, to get to know him more, enjoy being around him. i think he wants those things too.

Blogger Simon Says:

Sorry J, I didn't mean 'misdirected' as in going the wrong way about things, but rather 'misdirected' as in missing everyone. As Nick said, that's why we have so many churches. If everyone worshiped God the same way, then there would be no reason to have 800 churches of the same denomination in on community!

I think what we all need to realize from this is that 'Church' was meant to be a community thing, not a place where you go and sing, hear announcements, hear a sermon, and shake hands! It's just a community of believers coming together to "worship" God! There are no guidelines to it, I don't think, really. As far as making Vandelay into a church, there would have to be a whole lot more focus there...most of the time I don't see that time as pleasing to God! But if our time was more directed toward God, and our conversation more focused about our lives with God, then I could definately be ok with calling it a 'church'. We are belivers that are coming together to 'worship' God. I believe that He would find joy in that, and that's what I believe worship is...making God smile! Now, you need to find a way to feel fulfilled by that. If you can be pleased with the Lord finding joy in what you do, then you will feel fulfillment by what you're giving the Lord (that was probably a confusing sentance). From talking on Sunday night, it seems that some of us have a hard time 'getting stuff out of church'. But I don't think that's the main goal for us going to church. Sure when I go to church I want to leave there more in love with God. But if we continue to go with only that in mind, we'll never find pleasure from it. Our mind has to be set on God finding joy in what we are giving to Him, and then we'll leave there feeling like God has moved thru us.

This is just silly that I commented this long. Sorry!

Blogger Simon Says:

I just thought of an example...

Ok so when we hang out on Sudays for Vandelay, do you leave there feeling fulfilled if we just sit around and watch football? Or when we actually go downstairs and talk about our lives and God?

This question is directed to everyone but Brad.

I'd say when we go and talk about God. We don't leave there feeling like we've waisted our's and God's time. We've 'worshipped' Him!

Just a thought

Blogger Nickolini Says:

I fully agree Simon. Hopefully my opinion still matters since I haven't really been coming. I think that I got bummed out last time. Even though it was great to be with you guys, I didn't really care to sit and watch the Probowl. I think we do need to have fun and enjoy the time, but we also need more of a focus. It is hard for me to tear away from the wife and kids, so if I do I want it to be worth while. I think one way to do this is to stop humping people during prayer.

Blogger mr. e Says:

I agree with Simon too. I've been thinking about this since I left my earlier comment this morning, and realized that the other big thing God wants us to do is worship him. I find this hard in church, since every message/sermon seems a self help talk, but I guess the point is to keep me focused on worhsiping him and living for him.

I also stand next to my earlier comment about God wants us to evangelize. Going to church, discussion, or worshiping him, may all better equip you to do that, or they may not. That's not the only thing God wants you to do, but I think it's up there in the top 5. And like you said, I definitely don't mean "numbers" evangelizing.

Someone needs to buy Simon a beer (or whatever makes him happy).

Blogger Simon Says:

Sweet, what do I get a beer for?

Yeah, I agree that we're called to evangelize. But I don't know if that's the issue at hand here, that's why I didn't really touch on it. So yeah...beer for me!!!

Brian mentioned to me a while back that if we're not doing anything, then we are waisting a bunch of time! I mean, why should Linds have to go watch Brian's kid so he can go to Brad's to hump us? And justin drive from indiana... Let's just start being more useful with our time there! I love hanging with Nick, but if we're screwing around all the time, why should he leave his wife at home with their 12 kids?

Blogger Nickolini Says:

Hey, I resent that comment! You forgot about number 13, little Wolfgang. He's growing so fast.
Also....I think it would be great to get back on track....which also means bring back the beer. Maybe we should add cigars when the whether gets warm. Jesus, beer, and cigars. Have any three words been more beautiful together?

Blogger Nickolini Says:

Oh man....I had a Jeri moment. I meant "weather" not "whether." I'm a stickler for spelling.

Blogger Justin Hall Says:

throw 'sandwiches' in there and you got yourself a deal.

i for one do not want to start my own church. i'm feeling far too responsibility-phobic lately to be involved in something like that.

re: evangelism - frighteningly enough i feel somewhat content in the quality of my relationships with people who don't follow Jesus. i don't feel the need to drag them to my church unless they express interest... i still feel that earning the right to be heard about my story with Jesus is what's most important.

i believe simon is right in saying that 'evangelism' is not (completely) relevant to this discussion: my concern is in how not-connected to God i feel while at church, unless i kind of disconnect myself from the program going on around me (which tends to distract me rather than foster conversation with God and worship).

so when do i feel that connection most? when God and i are alone, in conversation. when i feel like he shows me something while i'm reading, connects some dots that weren't connected before. when i'm spending time with friends or with renee, enjoying their company, laughing, etc.

bottom line: a church service does not make that list very often. it's nothing wrong with the church, it's nothing wrong with me. it does mean i should spend more time with God and let him mold me so that i enjoy whereever it is he puts me - be that a church service, or a small group, or my office, etc...

Blogger Jeri Says:

This is an interesting topic that I would hope all Christians take on at a few points in their life. Ryan and I experienced one extreme to the other. Traditional service with the Methodist and very contemporary with Vineyard. We have been feed at both. I think it depends on where you are in life and where God wants you to be spiritually. I think it's healthy to "church shop" if your lacking being feed in any area. The style, structure, worship any reason. We found as we did this churches we thought were unhealthy, where actually pretty healthy. It’s just finding the right fit for us I think at least. Everyone is so different as far as their needs and worship and spiritual growth. I agree with Steve Bragg on everything he points out....including Black Olives are the shiznite!

Blogger Nickolini Says:

Justin...I was being facetious about the church plant idea. But in reality, if we meet and worship and learn about God (even if it involved beer, cigars and sandwiches) than we are a church. I think my point was, that maybe our time together (if we stay focused) may not be such a bad substitute for a Sunday morning service. If we pull worship and learning and good discussion into it every week (combined with the community we already have) than it might be all I am looking for.

Blogger Justin Hall Says:

indeed. i figured we weren't planning on becoming vandelay christian church :) a few people have echoed that feeling that, when stuff works at study, it works and i do feel very close to God.

Blogger Simon Says:

Vandelay Christian Church has a nice ring to it!!!

Anonymous Artie Says:

The funny thing is that "traditional" church services really aren't all that traditional. From what I understand, they're a fairly recent development. My buddy Owen's church is pretty much just a bunch of small groups. Honestly, that's probably much closer to what first century Christians understood "church" to mean.

Their website:

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